No. 1 Florida State (21-0-1) defeated no. 1 Clemson (18-4-4) by a 2-0 score tonight at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC to advance to the NCAA Tournament Final.
Florida State got off to a quick start. In the fifth minute Taylor Huff received the ball in the midfield and charged into the attacking third. Huff sliced into the penalty box. Clemson keeper Halle Mackiewicz came off her line to cut off her angle. Huff slipped to the ground and couldn’t get much power on her shot as Harper White was easily able to save the ball off the line and clear it away.
In the 16th minute Clemson generated a promising chance. The Tigers earned a free kick. Megan Bornkamp eventually squared a ball over to Renee Lyles who immediately swung the ball right into the path of Dani Davis who was charging forward. Davis sent a low shot for the right corner but FSU keeper Cristina Roque dived to her left to deflect the ball away for the nice save.
In the 38th minute Florida State finally broke the scoring ice. FSU earned a corner kick. Clemson tried to clear the ball but Leah Pais kept it in with a backward over the shoulder kick. Heather Gilchrist tracked back and delivered another over the shoulder kick that fell perfectly for Kaitlyn Zipay who was unmarked just outside the box. Zipay tracked the ball down and one-timed an absolute cracker past Mackiewicz for the first goal.
In the 53rd minute the Seminoles added some insurance. The Tigers had a throw-in but Mimi Van Zanten came out of nowhere to intercept the ball and knock it forward. Jordynn Dudley hustled over to keep the ball from going out of bounds. Dudley then executed one of her masterful turns and she was off to the races. White tried to execute a tackle but Dudley left her in the dust. Dudley then had acres of space in front of her. Dudley charged into the box. Mackenzie Duff tried to get over to Dudley to shut her down but she was too late. Dudley had enough space to fire a rocket past Mackiewicz for the second goal of the game. Duff was in a tough spot here. She was late getting over to Dudley but the reason that she was late was that she knew that Beata Olsson was knifing up the field and Olsson had a couple of steps on Davis who was trailing the play. Duff was worried that if she committed too soon Dudley would have an easy pass over to Olsson who would then be 1v1 with the keeper. Duff really had no good options here but the worst option is always to let Dudley have space in the attacking third. Dudley proved why that is true with her impressive strike.
Florida State was up by a couple of goals but Clemson did not quit. In the 64th minute the Tigers earned a corner kick. The ball was sent into the six. Olsson got a foot on it but her clearance wasn’t far enough. The ball deflected right to Megan Bornkamp who one timed a shot that went just wide left.
Florida State wasn’t done. In the 74th minute the Noles were possessing the ball in the Clemson defensive zone. The Seminoles were passing the ball like the Harlem Globetrotters Magic Circle. Huff eventually got the ball and nailed a left footed shot for goal. The ball was deflected by White but the ball ricocheted back to the goal and eventually hit the post before White could recover to clear the ball away.
FSU generated another chance in the 75th minute. Jody Brown spotted Ran Iwai making a run down the right side. Iwai sent a gorgeous cross back into the box and Brown nailed a header but Mackiewicz was perfectly placed to catch the ball for the save.
Florida State earned one final great chance in the 81st minute. LeiLanni Nesbeth chipped the ball ahead for Jody Brown who had timed her run perfectly to stay onside and still get a step on Davis. Nesbeth’s ball was perfectly weighted to hit Brown in stride. Brown took a couple of touches in the box before ripping a shot for goal but Mackiewicz had come off her line to cut off the angle and she made a brilliant save to deny Brown. I really thought that Brown was going to score and screw up my prediction from the preview article.
From there the Noles were able to salt the game away and advance to yet another NCAA Tournament Final.
Florida State outshot Clemson 12-11. FSU also had the edge in shots on goal 7-5.
Florida State won the possession battle 54%-46%.
The game was chippy at times especially in the first half but the two teams eventually settled down.
The Seminoles didn’t generate a ton more opportunities than the Tigers but they are so clinical that they are extremely hard to defend. The Noles can make something out of nothing at almost any time. Onyi Echegini, Jordynn Dudley, Taylor Huff, I could go on but these players are nuclear weapons. They can explode at any time. Heck, Kaitlyn Zipay did it tonight as well. Just so impressive.
Clemson is a really good team. They are organized, experienced and smart. The problem is that the Tigers just don’t have the athleticism to match up with Florida State. Brown is too fast for the Tiger back line. Dudley is too powerful (and fast). Huff is too athletic. Olsson is too quick. I could go on but you get the idea. When that athleticism is matched with the skill that the Noles possess it is a very tall order to stop the Seminoles for 90 minutes.
In the second half FSU looked like the team that was behind pushing for the equalizing goal and Clemson looked like the team that was up a goal and trying to hang on to the lead. FSU is so dominant in the second half. It’s unreal.
The attackers on this team get so much ink and it is deserved. However, the backline is playing basically as well as the attackers up top right now. This is a complete team and they are showing their quality at the most important time of the year.
There is one more game to be played but the way this Florida State team is playing it will take something special to deny them that fourth star.
Florida State will face the winner of the BYU/Stanford semifinal on Monday. The game will kickoff on Monday at 6pm and will be broadcast on ESPNU.